“The dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad.” C. S. Lewis Reviews Disney’s Snow White

First great thing: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis went on movie dates to see blockbuster films. Second great thing: They reviewed them in letters to their friends.

Atlas Obscura has highlighted a passage from the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, an out of print reference text, that describes Lewis taking Tolkien to see Disney’s Snow White in 1938. The article’s author Eric Grundhauser pulls in other reference material–letters from Lewis and reactions from scholars–to get a more complete picture of just how rankled the authors got over Disney’s depiction of fairy tales.

From Lewis, in what very much reads like an internet troll comment but was really just a letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton:

Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

It should be noted that according to the sequence of events that Grundhauser has reconstructed, Lewis saw the movie alone, had that reaction, then goaded Tolkien into going with him to see it again. “Hey Tolkien, come hate-watch this with me!” essentially said the lauded author of the classic Narnia fantasy series.

The author goes into much more detail in the Atlas Obscura piece, including Tolkien’s likely opinion on Disney’s depiction of dwarves and what may or may not have been Disney’s winking response to the two authors. It’s a great, fun read.

(Tor.com’s own Mari Ness rewatched the film in 2015 and notes: Everyone always forgets the tortoise.)


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